Whitelock over Vito and Shields makes no sense

GRANT NISBETT
Last updated 16:12 22/10/2013
Victor Vito
Getty Images
VICTOR VITO: Unlucky to lose out on All Black selection for the year-end tour.

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OPINION: Whenever a squad of rugby players is named to tour there is argument and discussion about who is lucky and, equally, who is unlucky.

As always the 'Bush Telegraph' was fully operational prior to Sunday's All Black announcement and the mail was spot-on, as it generally is.

There was an All Black coach of relatively recent vintage who used to leak names to the media before the final team announcement so that he could gauge the acceptability or otherwise of his selections and then he picked them anyway.

I'm sure that's not the case these days, but with wider training squads etc it's hard to find a bolter, a player who has flown completely under the radar.

The only real surprise was the inclusion of a non-player in Ardie Savea, a move designed to introduce the highly gifted youngster into the All Black environment without asking him to front up on game day.

The poor bloke looked somewhat non-plussed by the whole affair, not certain whether he's an All Black or not but obviously flattered by the recognition that he's good enough to be in the tour party.

The lucky player in the squad would appear to be Luke Whitelock, while both Brad Shields and Victor Vito would fit into the unlucky category.

The third of the remarkable Whitelock family to become an All Black, Luke has long been earmarked to reach the top. It was really just a question of when he would be promoted, but on Super Rugby and ITM Cup form, has that time arrived a little too early ?

What attributes does he have in the tight/loose role that his nearest rivals, Shields and Vito, don't. Selections are always subjective and the 'wise men' will have their reasons, but to my, admittedly untrained eye, he's as fortunate as both Shields and or Vito are unfortunate.

There's no doubt that these are exciting times for All Black rugby and it's hard to believe that so much of what has been achieved this season has been in the absence of the genuine super stars Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter.

Both are legends of the game but what we have discovered over the past couple of months is that they can be replaced without too much disruption. It's a tribute to both the depth of the game here and the insistence by the selectors that they create depth in each and every position.

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Since Steve Hansen took over from Graham Henry he has developed, in two seasons, world-class performers like Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam and 12 months from now we'll likely be adding names like Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith to that list.

Mention of McCaw and Carter used to be done in isolation but it's become very clear in 2013 that Kieran Read has joined the other two as a genuine superstar and his re-signing by the NZRU, along with Sam Whitelock, for the next four years is another major coup for an organisation that hasn't missed too many beats in recent seasons.

Once again it's become clear and evident that the policy of picking All Blacks from only those who play on these shores is quality legislation and ensures that the best stay at home.

Sky Sports rugby commentator and TAB rugby specialist Grant Nisbett will provide his thoughts on the 2013 rugby season every week. Agree with him? Disagree? Have you say below.

- The Dominion Post

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